North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin met Wednesday at Russia’s new spaceport in the Far East.
Putin showed Kim the Vostochny Cosmodrome spaceport and discussed the possibility of sending a North Korean cosmonaut into space. After the tour, Putin and Kim talked for several hours about world issues and possible areas of cooperation.
At lunch, Kim gave a toast to Putin's health, to the victory of "great Russia" and Korean-Russian friendship. He predicted victory for Russia in, what he called, its "sacred fight" with the West in the Ukraine war.
Russia seeking help with ammunition
Putin suggested that military cooperation was discussed but released few details. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also attended the talks. However, Russian officials said sensitive discussions between the neighbors were a private matter.
U.S. and South Korean officials have expressed concern that the rare meeting could lead to a deal to supply Russia with ammunition for the war in Ukraine.
Concern about the two countries’ military cooperation grew after Shoigu visited North Korea in July. Kim then visited his weapons factories, which experts said aimed to support North Korea’s weapons modernization and show military supplies for export to Russia.
Putin is believed to be seeking North Korean supplies of aging ammunition and rockets from the time when the Soviet Union existed. Such a request would mark a change from the period of the Korean War which lasted from 1950 to 1953. At that time, Russia gave weapons to support North Korea’s invasion of South Korea.
James Nixey is the director of the Russia and Eurasia program at London-based research group Chatham House. He said Russia cannot produce enough weapons for the war in Ukraine and any deal with North Korea would be to ensure that immediate needs are met.
North Korea wants space technology
The decision to meet at the Vostochny Cosmodrome suggests Kim is seeking Russian help in developing spy satellites. In recent months, North Korea has repeatedly failed to put its first military spy satellite into orbit.
Official photos showed Kim brought Pak Thae Song, head of North Korea’s space science and technology committee, and Kim Myong Sik who is linked with spy satellites and submarine-based nuclear ballistic missile efforts.
When asked by Russian media that attended the meeting, if Russia would help Kim build satellites, Putin said: "That's why we came here."
Putin told Russian state TV that Kim will visit two more cities in the Russian Far East on his own after the meeting. Kim is expected to visit an aircraft factory in Komsomolsk-on-Amur and then go to Vladivostok to observe Russia’s Pacific Fleet, a university and other places.
I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.